“I must say, Holmes,” Dr. Watson said, ” the object you’re holding is definitely blue. I don’t believe I’ve ever seen a blue quite like it. Where did you find it?”
“MacTavish found it,” replied Holmes. “It was lying halfway down the block next to a stairwell. He took me to it.”
“It’s a fastener of some kind; Squarish in a rounded kind of way, about two inches by one inch in size, made of blue enamelware on bronze, with a small prong on one end sand a rod on the other, from which several frayed blue threads hang.”
“These threads mark it as having come from a very expensive woman’s coat,” Holmes said, picking up his magnifying glass and looking closely at the clasp. “Notice this tiny speck? Here, at the base of the prong. It looks like blood. And these threads; someone ripped the clasp from the coat, injuring its wearer. The coat is of a striking electric blue. Whoever wore it would certainly be noticed.” Holmes placed the glass and the clasp on his desk and rubbed his eyes. “In my own neighborhood, Watson! I’ve sent Wiggins and his friends round to see what they might turn up about a woman seen wearing such a coat, but so far, no news.”
At that moment, there was a rap upon the door. Holmes raised an eyebrow and I, being closer than he, went and opened it. It was Wiggins, holding MacTavish. “We have found something,” he said, stepping in and putting MacTavish down.”It was Smythe found it, nosing around like ‘e does.”
“And what did he find?” asked Holmes.
“It’s the blue that did it, sir. Hard to miss that blue. Well, Smythe was asking’ round, and this lady overheard ‘im, and she said: ‘I’ve seen a coat that color, lad. Mrs. Carmichael’s niece Gladys ‘as one. I saw ‘er wearin’ it just the other day.’ But she ain’t seen ‘er lately, Mister ‘Olmes. Seems Gladys went out the night before and ‘ain’t returned.”
“What night was it?” I asked.
“Night afore last, Dr. Watson.”
“Ah,” Holmes said, reaching for his pipe, filling and lighting it. “Well, Master Wiggins, thank you. Did Gladys have any men friends she might have been meeting?”
Wiggins shook his head. ‘The lady didn’t say. I could ‘ave Smythe go round an’ ask.”
“No, Wiggins, that will do. If you’ll tell me where Mrs. Carmichael lives, Dr. Watson and I will go.” He dropped three coins in Wiggins’ hand, and he was gone. “If you aren’t busy this morning, Watson, would you care to joint me?” Placing the blue clasp in a small box, he tucked it into a vest pocket and got to his feet.
Mrs. Carmichael’s lodgings were on the second floor of a nondescript building four blocks down from Holmes’ lodgings. The door to her rooms was to the right of the landing, with her name, Mildred Carmichael, affixed in bronze. I gave three sound raps on the door, but received no answer, so I rapped again. Several moments later the door opened, revealing a very frightened-looking Mildred Carmichael.
“Y-yes?” she said hesitatingly. “I-is there something?”
“Yes, Mrs. Carmichael,” Holmes stated, removing the box from his vest pocket, opening it and showing her the clasp. “Is this from your niece’s coat?”
“Why-why-why, I-I-I’m not sure. It-it, . .”
“Why don’t we come in,” Holmes said, surging past and into the room. Sweeping the room with his eyes, he nodded toward a door at the rear of the room. “Watson. . .”
But before I could take a step, the door opened and a tall, well-dressed young man appeared, blocking it.
* * *
“And then?” Inspector Lestrade glanced from Holmes to me and back again.
“I pushed past him and found Gladys inside, injured. She is now recuperating in hospital. The young man, whose name is Reginald Murdoch, tried to run out, but Holmes stopped him. Gladys had repulsed his advances, he beat her, ripping the clasp from her coat. She ran to her aunt’s rooms, but he burst in after her, keeping them both prisoners until we came in.”
“And all because MacTavish found the clasp,” Inspector Lestrade said. “He’s become a valuable asset in your work, Mr. Holmes.
“Indeed he has,” Holmes replied, looking at the big gray cat, who affected a look of bored indifference from where he sat sunning himself in the window.